Chelsea Church going and Theater-hopping


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Atlantic Theater Company's season of newness

Greek theater grew out of a religious festival so it's fitting that the Atlantic Theater Company's home in Chelsea uses that former neighborhood church as the locus of plays concerned with, in a classic theater company's motto, the deepest questions about morality and performances that show the relationship between mortals, the gods and fate. As Shakespeare wrote, quoting the Greeks, "The Play's the Thing," and Cheseaites know it well.

The Atlantic Theater Company's current season turns its neighborhood-friendly space into a cosmopolitan theater temple with five new premieres. Ethan Coen's first full-length play Women or Nothing has already premiered. Next up is Stephen Adly Guirgis's new play Between Riverside and Crazy about New York apartment renting--a perfect topic for Chelsea.


Another premiere, Nancy Harris' Our New Girl is scheduled, this "psychological thriller" promises to address "the darker side of parenthood."


Two special events are also upcoming: choreographer-director Martha Clarke's visionary interpretation of Brecht and Weill's The Threepenny Opera, addressing age-old and urgent moral and musical questions for a new century. There's also urgency in The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, a new production of the Alan Sillitoe book and play, this time adapted by Britain's new breakthrough playwright Roy Williams, whose colloquial dialogue that The London Times has called "Crisp and bespoke: motives are mixed, nobody is a hero, nothing is black and white."


Now in its 28th year, The Atlantic Theater, founded by playwright David Mamet along with William H. Macy and 30 New York University acting students in 1985 works out of two Chelsea locations. There's a 99-seat Stage 2 space known as a black-box theater at 330 West 16th Street (Sigourney Weaver walked through its doors the day CityArts visited). It's where the Company's new plays are developed.

But the Company's main stage for performance and public entertainment is the Linda Gross Theater, a 165-seat space at 336 West 29th street. The Gross occupies the parish hall of St. Peter's Episcopal Church which was built in 1854 then was De-sanctified and renovated. Since then, what began as the Atlantic Acting school in1987, operates as both a private conservatory and an undergraduate program in conjunction with the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. It's a local venue but its goal is worldwide.

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